Green Update–>Leaf News, Chargers, and Batteries

Nissan Leaf EV plug-in

Car charging infrastructure may finally be getting somewhere. An agreement between Nissan and General Electric will focus on “smart” charging stations (presumably 220-volt) for in-home and on-the-road use.

The partnership will focus on how to get chargers into homes, as well as “the overall impact that electric vehicle charging will have on the electric grid.” As you can imagine, the problems are massive, and the full spread of public and private chargers will take years.

The Leaf is pushing toward launch later this year, and more than 6,600 people in the U.S. have put down their $99 reservation deposits. Preorders number 3,754, surpassing Nissan’s 2010 sales target by half.

We may well “leaf” this subject after a short commercial video break. It’s a sort of “more than you ever wanted to know…” approach, but informative still.

Battery technology isn’t that complicated; it’s just stuck, for now, on the lithium-ion concept, because it’s the best performer. L-i batteries are more expensive than nickel metal hydride ones (as used in BMW’s ActiveHybrid X6), but weigh less and produce more power per pound.

Chevy Volt lithium-ion battery

Chevy Volt l-i battery

There’s plenty of lithium in Bolivia and elsewhere, and the batteries can be recycled or even used as power managers in an energy grid. In Europe the l-i battery market is predicted to reach $1.76 billion by 2015.

R&D continues, of course, and is geared to the somewhat differing requirements of hybrids and EVs. According to one research firm,

annual hybrid production will jump to 4.6 million units in 2016, up from 1.4 million this year, while battery-electric vehicle shipments, which will be in the 20,000 range this year, will surge to about a half-million units.

The biggest market for both hybrids and EVs is still Japan, where some 60,000 taxis spew out 20 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. Now comes news that Japan’s largest taxi operator has partnered with Better Place (see our story here) to provide replaceable, rechargeable batteries for electric taxis (only three in this first experiment).

This seems like an ultra-sensible solution to getting a serious infrastructure going in a relatively small universe of cars. If it works, you may one day pull into an exchange station and swap out your battery in less time than it takes to fill up with gasoline.

How will car companies and energy companies increase the number of charging stations—both public and private? Let us have your thoughts.

—jgoods

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Used BMW X6

1 Comment

  1. I hope that partnership between the Japanese taxi company & Better Place works out, because having spots to quickly swap your spent battery for a new, charged one sounds like a smart approach to me. It will be interesting to see how power companies deal with all of this, since lots of people recharging batteries at home overnight would have a dramatic impact on their grid.

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